I Wasn’t Wearing a Seatbelt – Can I Still File a Claim?
Not Wearing a Seatbelt Can Affect Your Liability
First things first: You should always wear a seatbelt while in a car. Drivers should also always insist that everyone in their vehicle wears a seatbelt, too. In Texas, it is actually a criminal violation for anyone over the age of 15 to be in a car without a seatbelt, and adults can be held criminally accountable if they allow someone under the age of 15 to be in their car without a seatbelt.
The criminality of not wearing a seatbelt in your car while driving through Texas is actually an important factor when asking if you can still file a car accident claim after being in a crash while not having a seatbelt on. It all comes down to your liability and how a lack of seatbelt use can dramatically affect it.
When deciding on a fair liability distribution following a crash, various factors are weighed, including whether or not a driver was conducting some sort of criminal violation at the time. Usually, speeding and drunk driving are the two biggest offenders in this regard, but not wearing a seatbelt can definitely be considered. If you are hurt in a car accident while not wearing a seatbelt, you can still file a claim against the other driver, but your liability will likely be higher than if you had been wearing a seatbelt under the same circumstances.
Low Liability Matters in Texas
Texas uses modified comparative negligence or fault for car accident and personal injury cases. Under this system, injured parties with 51% liability or greater cannot demand damages from other involved parties.
With modified comparative negligence rules in mind, wearing a seatbelt in Texas becomes about both preserving your health and preserving your chances of filing a car accident claim. If an insurance company successfully argues that you were putting yourself at undue risk of severe injury by not wearing a seatbelt, then your liability could easily climb beyond the 51% mark, shutting out your claim entirely.
The “Seatbelt Defense” is Not Unbeatable
When an insurance company argues that you shouldn’t be able to sue its policyholder because you didn’t have on a seatbelt, it is using what is colloquially called the “seatbelt defense.” Although not wearing a seatbelt is unsafe and probably will increase your liability by some amount, it is not guaranteed to increase your liability enough to stop you from filing a claim. A judge can still decide just how much your liability should go up for not wearing a seatbelt.
For example, a distracted driver who is using their cellphone races through a red light and hits you while you are waiting for your turn at the intersection. You are not wearing a seatbelt and suffer catastrophic injuries. Because your only mistake was not wearing a seatbelt, the court decides you are just 20% liable for your injuries, which is well below Texas’s 51% threshold under modified comparative negligence rules.
Fighting for the Wrongfully Injured in Our Community
Scott Law Firm of Conroe is proud to represent people from all backgrounds and in all sorts of claims. If you were hurt in a car accident and you were not wearing your seatbelt, then you might find that most law firms won’t even give you the time of day to explore your legal options. We will happily discuss your situation during a free, confidential consultation to see if you should be planning on suing the driver that hit you.
To learn more, please feel free to dial (936) 243-4299 at any time.
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